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Running Your Raffle: 3 Steps

1. Gather supplies.

Your nonprofit will need three things to run a raffle: raffle tickets, something to draw the winning raffle ticket out of, and prizes. Raffle ticket sets can usually be purchased online or at a specialty store for a relatively modest price, and nonprofits can use anything as simple as a hat to pull winning tickets out of. 

But your main draw, the prizes, will need a little extra consideration. To host a raffle with worthwhile prizes that supporters genuinely want to win, consider offering:

  • Experiences and activities. Winning an item is great, but being lucky enough to win a raffle then learning your prize is something that can be bought at a department store is a bit of a letdown. Make your raffles more exciting by putting unique items up as prizes such as horseback riding tickets, free guitar lessons with a local music teachers, or even tickets to the big game.  
  • A variety of prizes. While one big raffle can be exciting, you can get more supporters involved and award more winners by offering a bunch of small prizes, in addition to your big ticket items. Then, participants can browse a selection of items and choose where to put their tickets, turning your raffle into a more interactive activity. 
  • Mystery boxes. An air of mystery can go a long way towards making a raffle prize more exciting. To add a little extra flair to your raffle, consider creating a few covered mystery prizes supporters can put their tickets in the drawing for. Keep in mind that a mystery box prize is likely to go over better and attract more support for free and low-cost raffles

Gathering valuable prizes for your raffle will require a top-notch acquisition team. Give your team plenty of time to reach out to sponsors to acquire the items they need. Then, after your raffle, reach back out to them to thank them for all their support and let them know your raffle was a success!

2. Hand out tickets. 

Raffles need raffle tickets. This sounds straightforward, but things can get complicated depending on your raffle’s format and whether or not it’s being held in person. For example, here are a few variations on raffles and how you would hand out tickets at each:

  • Free raffle. At a free raffle, each participant will get just one ticket they can use to enter your prize drawing. At this type of raffle, consider handing out tickets to guests as soon as they arrive at your venue. Or, hand out free raffle tickets as prizes for participating in various activities, such as reading a certain number of books during a school read-a-thon or winning games at a nonprofit carnival. 
  • Tickets for sale. Allow your participants to purchase as many tickets as they want. When selling tickets, let participants buy raffle tickets when they first arrive and throughout the event. 
  • Virtual raffle. There are obviously no physical tickets at a virtual raffle, but you can still host one by having participants opt-in. How you host your virtual raffle will depend on your chat and live-streaming software. You might be able to have participants enter just by typing a phrase and then using your software to randomly select someone, or you can assign each participant a number, then use a random number generator tool to determine who won. 

Whichever method you choose, be sure to communicate clearly to participants ahead of time how your raffle will be conducted. This will minimize confusion and allow them to make the best decisions for their chances of winning.

3. Announce your winners and distribute prizes.

After a certain amount of time, let participants know that all raffle tickets will need to be submitted. Then you can draw your winners!

To make your drawings exciting, consider conducting them in front of your audience. Plus, letting your participants see exactly how each ticket was drawn will show the entire process was fair and totally up to chance. 

You’ll also need to determine how to distribute prizes. You can make awarding prizes a public activity by handing them out immediately after your drawing in front of your assembled supporters, or you can call winners back to a designated area to give out prizes away from any crowds. If you have multiple winners and a variety of prizes to choose from, the second option will probably be your best bet, allowing winners to browse items and pick whichever prize they desire. 

Raffle FAQ

What types of organizations run raffles?

All types! From schools and churches to nationwide nonprofits, raffles are a fun way to earn a little extra money for a variety of nonprofits. Of course, how they host their raffle will likely look a little different.

For instance, a school trying to promote good attendance might run its raffle over the course of a month, allowing students to enter once per week they attended without missing any days. By contrast, a raffle at a gala for major donors will likely only last a few hours but end in a major send-off when winners are awarded their prizes. 

Whether you’re a club, school, charity, church, or business, a raffle can work for your organization. 

Am I legally allowed to run a raffle?

If you’re in the U.S., the answer is that it depends on the state. Most states allow nonprofits to run paid raffles or lotteries as long as they register in advance and a majority of the proceeds go to charity. How to register and exactly what percentage of the winnings must go to your mission will depend on your state. 

Of course, if you want to avoid jumping through legal hoops, you can run a raffle as long as it’s free to enter. While this approach may not raise funds directly through the raffle, it can still be a part of your event to keep the excitement high and encourage supporters to stay until the end just to see if their name will get called. 

Before getting too far into your raffle planning, research your state’s guidelines and apply for any necessary licenses or registrations to ensure your nonprofit is compliant with local laws. 

What happens if the raffle winner doesn’t collect their prize?

Part of preparing for a raffle is making contingency plans. Just like with any other fundraiser, unexpected twists and turns can come up, and your event team should have plans in place for the most common ones. For example, what if your raffle winner leaves before the end of your event?

In cases like this, you can always pull another winning number and award them the prize. If you plan to have multiple winners, you can set out a variety of prizes of equal value and let them pick and choose which ones to take home. The extras can then be saved for your next event. 

In addition to situations like this, consider what to do if someone loses their raffle ticket after purchasing it. Can they get a new one or are they just out of luck? Will your answer change if participants were allowed to buy more than one raffle ticket? Thinking up situations and planning for situations like these will only make your raffle run smoother! 

Pair Your Raffle With Another Fundraising Event

What events pair well with raffles?

Raffles can be run on their own or paired with another fundraiser. Events are an especially great opportunity to run a raffle as you can pass out your tickets at the beginning of the event, then encourage participants to stick around until the very end when you announce prizes.

Here are a few events that go particularly well with raffles:

  • Galas
  • Auctions
  • Virtual events
  • Community gatherings
  • Carnivals 
  • Talent shows
  • Bingo nights

Choose how you’ll set up your raffle based on your event. Will there just be one big raffle that everyone is entered into? Will it have multiple winners? Or will you create a bunch of small raffles and ticket drawings for specific prizes that guests can enter at their leisure throughout your event?